Why people live in fear
I think one of the leading pastoral issues in the parish I serve — and, I suspect in many others — is fear. If fear dominates your thinking, it’s hard for hope, abundance, generosity, and love to make much impact. Here are some examples of fear-based thinking, things that I’ve actually heard people say.
- My kid has to be in soccer on Sunday mornings, or she might not get into a good college.
- We can’t give more money to the church, because we might lose our jobs.
- I need to drive this SUV because it’s safer, even though I know it’s not good for the environment.
- I don’t know if I want my children to go into the city on the mission project. The city isn’t safe.
- We’d like to leave the church open for prayer, but something might happen to our stuff.
Where does that fear come from? Look no further than the GraphJam blog. It’s intended as humor, but I’ll bet it’s not so far from the truth:
You are what you eat. There’s truth to that. And you are what you read, what you hear, and what you watch. One person I know stopped listening to the news and starting saying Morning Prayer first thing every day. It changed her world.
Those bullet points at the top of the post? Here’s what abundant thinkers might say instead:
- A good spiritual life is most important. My kid will be in church every Sunday, and I know she will get into a good school if she’s a well-formed young woman.
- We’ll be generous. We know that God comes first, and that includes our check book. (There are families who keep up their pledges even when income goes down. And you know what? They’re the people who complain the least about not having enough.)
- I’ll find a car that’s safe and good for the environment. (By the way, SUVs are really more dangerous to their occupants than other cars.)
- My kids will benefit from mission work, and being in the city will open their eyes.
- Our church is meant to be a “house of prayer for all people” not a museum. We can take some sensible precautions. If something ever did happen to our stuff, we have adequate insurance.
Doesn’t that sound better?
I advise people again and again not to watch television news. It’s all about fear. A good newspaper has a better ratio of senseless fear to reasonable reporting than any television news program. If you don’t want to kill trees, the New York Times or any number of other websites will inform you about world events, usually without so much hype and ferocity as television.
Anecdotally, the people I know who are most devoted to the evening news are less likely to be devoted to discipleship (there are, of course, always exceptions). What’s your experience — either in your life or in those around you?